Saturday, November 27, 2004

Stem cell success

The Korea Times reports that a woman who could not even stand up for the last 19 years due to a spinal cord injury can now walk thanks to stem cell therapy.

"The stem cell transplantation was performed on Oct. 12 this year and in just three weeks she started to walk with the help of a walker," [professor Song Chang-hun] said.

The patient’s lower limbs were paralyzed after an accident in 1985 damaged her lower back and hips. Afterward she spent her life in bed or in a wheelchair.

For the unprecedented clinical test, the scientists isolated stem cells from umbilical cord blood and then injected them into the damaged part of the spinal cord.

The sensory and motor nerves of the patient started to improve 15 days after the operation and she could move her hips. After 25 days, her feet responded to stimulation.

This is great news, and shows the amazing potential of stem cell therapy. It's important to note that the stem cells used here were taken from umbilical cord blood. There shouldn't be any controversy involving these stem cells
, given that there is no harm done to any living thing, and the blood from umbilical cords is routinely discarded.

While some in this country dishonestly tout embryonic stem cells as the miracle cure that George Bush is keeping from people, the successes in stem cell therapy have not come from embryonic stem cells but from adult stem cells, or in this case umbilical cord stem cells, which are futher developed than embryonic stem cells.

Here in Wisconsin, Governor Jim Doyle recently announced that the state would invest $750 million to build and staff two research centers that would study, among other things, the medical uses of embryonic stem cells. This means that my state tax dollars will go to support the creation and destruction of human embryos. I am not pleased.

When discussing this issue during the campaign, Democrats refused to acknowledge the controversy surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells. They simply repeated that we mustn't let ideology trump science--a statement which is ridiculous on the face of it. It bothers me that Democrats say President Bush "outlawed stem cell research"--a bald-faced lie--but it bothers me more that they behave as if there was no controversy at all.

It's important that the public understands two things about this issue: First, that the only successes we've had with stem cell therapy has come from non-embryonic stem cells. And second, that research beyond the existing embryonic stem cell lines means that scientists will be routinely creating life in a lab--and then destroying it.

There's still a chance that the state legislature will put the kibosh on Doyle's plan.

But in the meantime, a woman in Korea can now walk again with stem cell therapy that didn't involve creating embryos and destroying them. Shouldn't the research lean in the direction of successes?


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